While education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States, it has become a crucial top tier issue in national elections. It is on the minds of Democratic voters,  specifically policies concerning  charter schools, early childhood education, free public college, desegregation and more.


Charter Schools & Vouchers

These publicly funded independently run schools have been the focus of a twenty five year battle.   How they are run, funded, and overseen varies dramatically from state to state, school to school. The top criticisms of charters is that they rob funding from district schools, and inadequately serve children with special needs. Charter schools suspend children with disabilities at a higher rate than public schools, and there have been many cases of inadequacy due to a lack of resources, experience, and insensitivity. And critics highlight that after 25 years and some 6,000 schools, charters still on average produce results roughly equal those of the public schools to which they set out to be better alternatives. Charter schools, along with private school vouchers and tax credit scholarships are at the heart of the school choice policies promoted by this administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Sanders wants a moratorium on federal funding for new charter schools until the impact of their growth can be studied.  This means halting expansion of public charter schools. He is calling for a ban on for-profit charter schools. He does not support using public money in the form of vouchers or tax credits for private or religious school education.

Biden has said he is opposed to for-profit charter schools and would increase accountability for public charter schools. He does not support school vouchers.

Harris does not support charter schools. We should focus on improving our public schools and increasing teacher wages instead.

Free Public College

Many Democrats have lined up behind the most generous forms of free public college, including waiving tuition for students from families under a certain income threshold. The Obama administration wanted to make two years of community college or technical school free, arguing the U.S. should extend public schooling through grade 14.

Sanders’ proposal would wipe out tuition for all public colleges and universities for all families regardless of wealth.  States would be on the hook for 33 percent of the cost and the federal government would cover the rest.

Biden supports making two years of college or technical school free for low and middle income families.   He proposed it could be covered by closing a single tax loophole.

Harris planned to make four year public college debt fare and was co-sponsor the The Debt-Free College Act. She backed the College For All Act in 2017 (a bill sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders), and she co-sponsored the Debt-Free College Act of 2018,which would have created a federal-state partnership to incentivize states to reduce or eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities.

Student Debt

More than 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.6 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt. Student debt has cast a shadow over everything from financial security to philanthropy.  Overwhelming debt prevented 80% of borrowers from saving for retirement, 56% from buying a home, 42% from buying a car, and 50% from contributing to charity, according to the report. Most Democrats have called for  fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, an existing federal benefit that’s supposed to cancel the debt of borrowers who work in public-service jobs for 10 years. But few borrowers have actually had their loans forgiven under the program, which has been plagued by bureaucratic hiccups and complicated eligibility requirements.

Biden’s plan would make student loans easier to pay off for current borrowers, fix the flawed Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and take several other steps to make higher education more affordable — both during and after college.

Sanders has the most sweeping proposal;  calling for the elimination of all $1.6 trillion in existing student-loan debt held by either the federal government or private lenders.

Harris believes in refinancing high interest loans to lower rates, extending Income Based Repayment IBR to insure no student pays more than they can afford, and cracking down on for-profit colleges and lenders that defraud our students.

Teacher Pay

Teacher salaries are typically funded with local and state money, with some federal subsidies for teachers in schools with a significant number of poor students. Despite being so highly valued, teaching professions are among the lowest paying jobs for college graduates. The recent and ongoing wave of teacher strikes that swept the nation last year and since in states like West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma (each among the lowest paying states for teachers), demonstrates that in some states compensation structures and working conditions for teachers are a serious issue.

Sanders would work with states to set a minimum starting salary for teachers of $60,000tied to cost of living, years of service, and other qualifications; and allow states to go beyond that floor based on cost of living.

Biden would nearly triple Title I funding and require districts to use the funds to give educators “competitive salaries” and make other “critical investments” before using the money for other purposes.

Harris states “American’s teachers are drastically underpaid and they deserve a raise. We’ll make the largest investment in teachers in American history and provide the average teacher a $13,500 raise, entirely closing the teacher pay gap.

Free Universal Pre-K

High-quality early childhood education can help set students up for success in kindergarten, so there has been a surge of interest in new programs, including subsidies based on income, and across-the-board free pre-K as part of the public schools.

Both Biden and Sanders believe the federal government should fund and implement a national free universal pre-K program. Harris is a co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act, which supports “universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3 and 4 year olds.


Many schools are still segregated by race, as well as by income, and the situation has grown worse in some communities in the years since federal courts lifted most desegregation orders. Today, some school districts are working to desegregate their schools. The Obama administration put forth some modest efforts to encourage this, but they have been rolled back under President Trump.

Biden plans to reinstate Department of Education guidance that supported schools in legally pursuing desegregation strategies and recognized institutions of higher education’s interests in creating diverse student bodies. And, he will provide grants to school districts to create plans and implement strategies to diversity their schools.

Sanders plans to increase federal funding for community-driven strategies to desegregate schools. He would end funding penalties for schools that attempt to desegregate.

Title IX and Sexual Assault Investigations

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed new rules for how schools handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault,  specifically the right to cross examine one’s accuser. Many believe these rules will keep survivors silent.

Biden continues to support the Obama-Biden Department of Education Office of Civil Rights guidance that “strongly discourages schools from allowing the parties personally to question or cross-examine each other during the hearing.”

Sanders plans to reverse Devos’ decision to weaken Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault victims on college campuses

U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris  joined Senator Patty Murray  and 35 of their Senate colleagues in slamming Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ final Title IX rule, which will weaken protections for student survivors of sexual harassment and assault.


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                               Democratic Delegate Count (as of March 12)

According to NPR’s delegate tracker, Biden has 864 delegates and Sanders has 710. These numbers are expected to grow as results continue to trickle in over the coming days. To secure the nomination, a candidate needs to win a majority of delegates, meaning at least 1,991.

Biden’s Wins 
Feb 29
South Carolina
March 3 Super Tuesday.
Virginia,  Alabama, and North Carolina
Other wins that day: Tennessee, Minnesota , Texas , Arkansas , Oklahoma,  Massachusetts, and Maine.
Tuesday March 11
Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri

Sanders Wins
Feb 3
Feb 11
New Hampshire
Feb 22
March 3 Super Tuesday
Other wins that day: Colorado , Utah , and Vermont
Tuesday March 11
North Dakota, Washington

What’s ahead:

Debate Sunday March 15
8 pm

March 14
Northern Marianas Islands

Tuesday March 17
(If one candidate sweeps Arizona, Florida and Illinois, there will be immense pressure on the other candidates to exit the race.)
Florida, Illinois, Ohio

March 24

March 29
Puerto Rico


Next Post:  The Future of Elections


About Debra29

I am a retired public school teacher who believes that a strong democracy rests on the shoulders of its citizens. This blog was created as a central resource of civic engagement. Together, we can make a difference. Follow me on Twitter: Determined@2AlterTheCourse
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